Friday, 16 April 2010

Dominator: The Demon Lord of Dead Rock Stars!

The brainchild of Tony Luke, Dominator started life as a comic strip in 1988; in 1993 the strip was bought by the Japanese publisher Kodansha and included in their anthology title Comic Afternoon. Ten years later the comic made the jump to animation when it was adapted into a feature film (Britain's first full-length CGI feature, in fact, despite what the publicity for Valiant said) directed by Luke, written by Alan Grant and backed by the Sci-Fi Channel. The back of the box summarises the film and its ethos perfectly:
In the not too distant future, Earth is beset by incursions from Hell which is now ruled by Lord Desecrator and the Great Old Ones. The world's governments keep these supernatural attacks in check by a combination of of science and magick, but that protection collapses when three girls in a rock band mix some magick into their songs and open a hole between Hell and Earth releasing a horde of demons and the demon Lord of dead rock stars, Dominator.

What comes next are a series of epic battles and some mind-blowing visuals as the likes of Lady Violator, Decimator, Extricator and Dominator fight it out on a ghoul filled Earth. With voices supplied by Radio 1's Mark & Lard and Dani Filth, Dominator is a stunning mix of graphics, guitars, black humour and a soundtrack that features Cradle of Filth, Synthetic, Digitals and Eileen Daly's Jezebel, and is absolutely not to be mixed [sic]!
I've never seen anything else quite like Dominator: The Movie. It's a film that genuinely revels in its naffness: the storyline is ludicrous, and realises it (a sign in a funeral home reads "in case of zombie, break glass"); the dialogue rarely gets more sophisticated than "even if we do get back to Hell, Desecrator'll kick our arses for failing"; the voice actors clearly aren't taking their jobs remotely seriously and the visuals are almost gleefully thrown-together and garish.

"The new wave of Brit-manga animation is here!" proclaims the front of the DVD box. This designation led to the film being discussed at the official forums of Sweatdrop Studios, a UK-based collective dedicated to publishing manga-influenced comics; comments posted include "it seems to be a trend in design, animation, and life in general that complete wank gets loads of props and backing", "all their female characters have shiny breasts! Look at those breasts glow!!!" and "eeewwww!!!!"

Eventually Tony Luke joined in the conversation:
If you don't like something, ie. Dominator, then that's absolutely fine. Really. We had fun making it, and whilst we're all totally aware of its shortcomings (oh, for more time, more money etc etc blah), we're all proud of getting off our butts and at least trying to do something people would like, as opposed to forever having something continually 'in development' and forever talking about it with one's pals down the pub at anime meetings... we all have to start somewhere, guys. Personally, I'd like to animate the Hell Scrolls, or Yoshitaka Amano's tarot sequence, but would anyone back something like that in the commercial world..? No. And especially not in the UK. Sometimes you have to make (one hell of a lot of) compromises in order to set the ball rolling for bigger things, some of which you might actually like...

I'm delighted to see that other animated works are in the pipeline -- the more, the merrier. I'd like to see a much more active animation industry in the UK, period. So there's room for everyone. But personal attacks on my (and the rest of the crew's) integrity just for existing (and, I daresay, for not involving certain elements of the UK anime fan scene) aren't going to get anyone anywhere. Animators, creatives and fans in the UK should be working together, not fighting with each other. Or have I got this all wrong, and anime/manga should be the sole domain of a tiny group of elitists..?
He also explained how the film came about:
The animated "Dominator" was originally begun in 2000, and was intended as an episodic series for download on the Renga website, kinda like a comic in regular installments. At that time, broadcast wasn't even being considered, and wasn't in the equation when the characters were built (using Cinema 4D rendering Poser/Lightwave characters). As various Kodansha personnel were involved, it was decided that the story should be a fairly straight adaptation of the original episodic manga published in Comic Afternoon, the script for which perhaps doesn't have the same connotations in the west as it did for the original Japanese audience.

About 40 mins had been 'shot', when in 2001 a couple of things happened; I went down with asbestos cancer, and very nearly snuffed it. The whole project was put on ice for several months. Whilst getting used to life with one lung, the Sci-Fi Channel stepped in and offered to help complete the show, so long as it was extended into a feature film and was 'blown up' for broadcast (hence the texture maps were never overly-detailed in the first place, as the original aspect ratio was only 320x240...). They weren't happy with us going back and re-rendering what we'd already done for time purposes, and I wasn't fit enough at that time to even consider that as an option, so we were kinda stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea... Compromises had to be made in all areas, and rather than see everything go to waste, we swallowed our pride and got on with it...

And so it was completed earlier this year, and sucked up every penny that had been put in... (three years ago, I genuinely had NO idea of the real cost of these enterprises... you're right in that it costs nothing to work at home and do this stuff for nowt, but post-production can really obliterate your bank balances...); you're also right when you surmise that the UK anime fanbase isn't the target audience - the 'brit-manga' term was put on us by Sc-Fi due to its having been published in Afternoon... I'm well aware of how misleading this term is in the UK (and I wasn't happy about it being used on the DVD cover) but to compound things, it's now being used to describe 'Dominator' over in Japan (where it's gone down very well, btw...)

[F]or all its faults - and I'm aware of all of them! - the attention "Dominator" has generated is enabling us to invest time and R&D in lots of other animated projects, some of which will hopefully appeal to you, some of which will probably not. It's certainly alerted the British Film Council to the possibilities of increased investment in animated projects from the UK in general, which can only be a good thing for everyone involved in this field. But our 'company ethos' of combining UK and Japanese creative talents will continue to influence our output, 'cos that's what we enjoy about it. And we don't have to compromise our output with other companies any more.
A proposed sequel to the film never surfaced, although it did spawn two short films: A Brief History of Hell and the crossover Heavy Metal vs. Dominator - visit the Dominator fanpage at Forgotten Junk for the complete history of this odd franchise.

1 comment:

  1. Fucking hell someone has wrote something on this movie, let alone seen it, other than me? Time to read this.